Monthly Archives

June 2021

Education Reviews Wines

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Terroirs & How They Differ

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon AVAs

Tasting a broad cross section of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon terroirs is a fascinating experience. The region boasts a remarkable diversity of meso-climates, altitudes, vineyard orientations, and soil types. This equates to markedly different expressions of the grape from one AVA to another.

A few months back, I moderated a Napa Valley Vintners seminar exploring this subject. As a follow up, Silverado Vineyards kindly sent me wines from three separate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon terroirs. They all hail from the same vintage and were vinified in a similar fashion.

Before we dive into the tasting, let me give you a bit of context on the Napa Valley.

A Broad Overview of the Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is situated 80 kilometres (km) north of San Francisco and 55 km inland from the Pacific Ocean, in northern California. While global regard for its wines is high, the region is actually very small. Napa accounts for just four percent of California’s annual output.

According to Napa Valley Vintners, there are 475 wineries in Napa, of which 95% are family owned. Over 30 different grape varieties are grown here in vineyards spanning some 18,600 hectares. Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed star, with over half the Valley’s plantings dedicated to this late ripening variety.

The Unique Geography of the Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is nestled between the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and the Vaca Range to the east. Vineyards range in elevation from sea level to over 800 metres in altitude. The valley floor is almost 50 km long, but only eight km wide at its maximum width.

Due to its varied topography, among a myriad of other differentiating factors, the Napa Valley has been separated into 16 sub AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). These are sometimes referred to as “nested AVAs” as they fall within the broad Napa Valley AVA designation. In order to use a specific sub AVA on a wine label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must come from the area in question.

The soils of the Napa Valley have both marine and volcanic origins. The valley was formed by tectonic plate movement dating back over 150 million years, culminating in the San Andreas Fault. This system provoked volcanic activity, with its resultant magma forming a new type of bedrock in the region.

Subsequent erosion and intermingling has led to three major soil categories: fluvial, alluvial, and mountain. The valley floor is made of deep, fertile silt and clay deposits from the river banks (hence fluvial). The benchlands are alluvial fans of gravel, sand, and silt washed down from the mountains to the valley. Finally, the shallow, rocky, nutrient-poor mountain soils are derived from decomposed primary bedrock.

The Climate Contrasts of the Napa Valley

The Napa Valley has a dry, sunny Mediterranean climate. Average summer daytime highs range from 27º Celsius (C) in southern Napa Valley to 35º C in the north. Night time temperatures are substantially cooler, notably in the southern parts of the valley. Thermostat readings can plunge to just 12º C here on especially cool nights. This is due to the proximity of San Pablo Bay to the southern vineyards, bringing cooling breezes and overnight fog.

This regular, dense fog is caused by hot air in California’s interior valley rising and drawing in cooler, moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The Chalk Hill Gap also brings patches of fog, and thus a cooler meso-climate to parts of Calistoga in northern Napa Valley. However, in general terms, the southern valley floor is cooler than the low-lying northern vineyards.

Altitude and vineyard orientation also play major roles in shaping a Napa Valley vineyard meso-climate. Temperatures in many mountain AVAs can be 5º C cooler than valley floor sites. That being said, higher altitude sites above the fog line do not experience the same diurnal variations so tend to have cooler days but warmer nights, making for more even conditions.

Finally, east vs. west facing vineyards can also show significant differences in climate. The eastern benches and slopes receive the slightly more timid morning sunshine, and are shaded from the afternoon heat. In comparison, western facing areas are exposed to abundant afternoon sun, giving riper, more opulent wines.

Comparing Three Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Terroirs

Silverado Vineyards Wines

Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Station, 2016 – 90pts. LW

The vineyard for this cuvée lies on the western edge of the Oakville sub AVA, within the revered, gentle slopes of the To Kalon site. Oakville is a moderately warm growing area. Situated mid-way up the valley floor, the cooling effects of the coastal fogs are less dramatic here.

The 2016 Oakville Station has intense, ultra-ripe aromas of cassis and dark plum mingled with nuances of cedar, pencil shavings, and potpourri. The palate is full-bodied, with a mouth coating density, and a concentrated core of sweet dark fruits, mocha, cedar, and spice, ably balanced by fresh acidity. Ripe, rounded tannins provide a good framework. Finishes on a warming, sweet fruited note, with marked oaked flavours of cedar and spice.

Where to Buy: Inquire with agent Vinéo. Winery price: $90 USD.

Silverado Vineyards “Solo” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, 2016 – 94pts. LW

The Solo cuvée is named for the heritage clone of Cabernet Sauvignon used here. The Stags Leap terroir is separated from the rest of the valley floor vineyards by the Stags Leap Palisades, which form its eastern boundary. Brisk marine breezes flow through the area in the afternoon, tempering the heat generated by the sunny west-facing slopes and reflective shale soils.

The 2016 Solo cuvée has an alluring nose of ripe dark fruits and dark chocolate, with well integrated cedar spice and refreshing eucalyptus notes. The weighty, powerfully structured palate is lifted and lengthened by its vibrant acidity. Persistent flavours of dark chocolate, tangy dark fruit, and sweet tobacco adorn the finish. Drinking well now, though the freshness, depth, and fine-grained tannins suggest fine moderate term cellaring potential.

Where to Buy: Inquire with agent Vinéo. Winery price: $125 USD

Silverado Vineyards “Geo” Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville, 2016 – 92pts. LW

Among the more recently named sub-AVAs of the southern Napa Valley, Coombsville has significant overnight cooling from the San Pablo fogs. The “Geo” Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Silverado’s Mt. George plot, one of the oldest vineyard sites in the area. The area lies in an alluvial fan of the Vaca Mountains, giving deep, gravelly soils of volcanic origin.

Heady aromas of macerated red berries and black plum on the nose, with underlying tobacco, baking spice, and cedar notes. On the palate, the 2016 Geo has a similarly potent, yet lively character reminiscent of the Solo cuvée. However, here the dark fruit flavours are a shade sweeter and the oaked overtones more present. Ripe, muscular tannins structure the finish nicely. Needs a few years cellaring to knit together further and soften.

Where to Buy: Inquire with agent Vinéo. Winery price: $75 USD.

Cover photo credit: Silverado Vineyards

Reviews Wines

Seven Great Value Rosé Wines to Drink Now

great value rosé wines

Photo credit: Gabriel Meffre Winery, view of the Mount Ventoux

Looking for some great value rosé wines to drink this summer? My office has been overflowing with rosé wine samples so I knuckled down last week and got to tasting. I know, I know… the sacrifices I make for the sake of my readers!

Rosé wine comes in all shades, sweetness levels, and styles. To learn more about finding the best rosé wines for your palate, check out this article.

This latest rosé tasting focused on singling out great value rosé wines; those that overdeliver in terms of complexity, concentration, or just pure drinking pleasure. They are a pretty mixed bunch stylistically so make sure to read my tasting descriptions to find a style you will most enjoy.

If you scroll down to the end, you can check out my latest YouTube video: What Goes Well with Rosé Wine? Here, I break-down different styles of rosé and suggest the best food matches. And, for those that stick around to the end, there is a bonus rosé wine dessert recipe that is surefire hit with dinner guests.

Now on to this season’s great value rosé wines:

Great Value Rosé Wines for $15 or Less

Gerard Bertrand Gris-Blanc, IGP Pays d’Oc 2020 – 87pts. VW

This light, dry rosé is made predominantly of Grenache Gris, a pale pinkish hued mutation of the Grenache Noir grape. While the nose is discreet, the palate more than makes up with its lively red apple and subtle stone fruit flavours. Finishes smooth and fresh. Very pleasant every day rosé.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($15.60), LCBO ($15.75)

Château Grand Escalion Costières de Nîmes 2020 – 90pts. VW

Sustainably farmed vineyard in the heart of the southern Rhône Valley’s Costières de Nîmes region. This Grenache, Syrah cuvée is a regular summer listing here in Québec and offers consistent good value year after year.

The nose offers a mix of fresh raspberry and pomegranate notes, with underlying floral and candied fruit aromas. The palate is fresh and rounded, with a pleasing silky texture, and lively red berry flavours on the dry finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($17.95)

Muga Rosado, Rioja 2020 – 88pts. VW

Another delicious blend of red and white grape varieties. Here, Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet) is the star. This red-fleshed grape gives deep colour, and a soft, fruity characte. Rioja’s major white wine grape, Viura is blended in for its nervy acidity, and a dollop of Tempranillo completes the

Pale salmon pink in colour, with delicate aromas of apple blossom, red berries, and pomegranate on the nose. The palate is fresh and rounded, with a subtle creaminess to the mid-palate. Finishes dry and marginally warm.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($18.75), LCBO ($15.95)

Château La Lieue “Tradition” Rosé, Coteaux Varois en Provence 2020 – 89pts. VW

An organic Provence rosé made primarily from Cinsaut, blended with Grenache Noir.

Pretty pale pink hue, with vibrant aromas of pink grapefruit and candied red berries, nicely offset by fresh herbal undertones. Wonderfully tangy acidity defines the lightweight palate. Zesty citrus and red berry flavours mingle with earthy/savoury nuances, lingering on the dry finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($18.85)

Domaine du Tix Ventoux Rosé Cuvée des Restanques 2020 – 90pts. VW

Perched in the foothills of the Mont Ventoux at 350-metres altitude, the Domaine du Tix benefits from cooler night time temperatures that slow down ripening and preserve fresh acidity in their wines. The Cuvée des Restanques blend is a Cinsault dominant blend with Grenache and Syrah in supporting roles.

Quite an intriguing nose, with its abundance of citrus fruit, fresh herbs, and peppery nuances. Crisp and nervy on the palate, with a taut, linear structure, and ultra-dry, subtly bitter finish. Perfect for lovers of brisk, dry, savoury white wine, timidly venturing into rosé drinking.

Great Value Rosé Wines Under $25

Domaine de la Grande Séouve “AIX” Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2020 – 91pts.

Due north of Aix-en-Provence, the vineyards of this well-established estate are dotted between lavender plantings and garrigue outcrops. The “Aix” Rosé is a classic blend featuring Grenache, with equal parts Cinsault, and Syrah for seasoning.

Initially discreet, with attractive notes of lavender, pink grapefruit, and red apple developing with aeration. Light and supple on the palate, with a creamy textural core, and dry finish. Not overly fruity as rosé goes, but quite refined.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($20.50)

Château Puech-Haut Argali Languedoc 2020 – 93pts.

Located near the Pic-St-Loup vineyards of the Languedoc, Château Puech-Haut (aka High Hill) is among the most well regarded wineries of the region. The Argali cuvée is a blend of Grenache and Cinsault, gently direct pressed, and then vinified in temperature controlled tanks with extended lees ageing in the same vessels.

Pretty notes of white peach, red berries, and zesty citrus on the nose, layered with dried herbal hints. The palate is fresh, with a pleasing satin-like feel, and concentrated core of tangy summer fruit. Finishes dry, with lifted acidity, and lingering bright fruit. Very polished.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($24.75)

What does VW, PW, LW mean in my Great Value Rosé Wines tasting notes ? Check out my wine scoring system.

Reviews Wines

The Fascinating Story of Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta

Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta

The story of Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta starts like this… In the mid-1960s, Annamaria Clementi Zanella purchased a little house in the heart of a chestnut forest. A decade later, her son Maurizio transformed the Ca’ del Bosco (house in the woods) into a state-of-the-art winery producing some of Italy’s top traditional method sparkling wines.

A Little Preamble on the Franciacorta Wine Region

The winemaking region of Franciacorta is situated in Lombardy, to the south of Lake Iseo, and east of Bergamo. The region’s vineyards span a glacial amphitheatre of rolling hills, forming a warm mesoclimate moderated by cooling breezes from the foothills of the Rhaetian Alps.

Franciacorta produces among the finest of Italian traditional method sparkling wines. Chardonnay is the star grape here, blended with Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc.

“Franciacorta is not a sparkling wine. In Italian legislation it is not classed as a spumante” explained Maurizio Zanella in a recent virtual tasting. “It is a wine that just happens to have bubbles” he added.

He went on to detail the vinous character, rounded structure, and broad mid-palate that sets Franciacorta apart from other traditional method wines. This is why the region generally produces wines with very little liqueur d’expedition. “We don’t need it”.

The Unique Production Methods of Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta

Ca’ del Bosco was one of the pioneering forces behind the creation of the Franciacorta DOCG and establishment of its growers’ consortium. Right from the outset, Zanella pushed the appellation to adopt quality-focused measures like lowering grape yields and increasing minimum ageing time on lees.

Not content to follow traditional practices, Ca’ del Bosco devised a unique method to retain aromatic complexity and structural longevity in their wines. After manual harvest and strict grape sorting, Ca’ del Bosco treats their grapes to a spa day.

Grapes are washed in a series of three whirlpools to eliminate impurities. Once cleaned, the grapes are gently dried with cold air. This process eliminates the need for settling (clarification via sedimentation) after fermentation. It also greatly reduces the winery’s reliance on sulphur additions.

To further reduce sulphur inputs, Ca’ del Bosco has developed a strictly controlled oxygen-free process for vinification, bottling, and disgorging of its sparkling wines.

The Evolving Style of Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta

One of Zanella’s major concerns in recent years has been sugar. Or more precisely, how to integrate it more naturally and reduce its overall use in his wines.

Six years ago, he stopped using cane sugar in his wines. Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta is now dosed exclusively with organic grape concentrate. “I want my wines to be as natural as possible” said Zanella. “It just didn’t make sense to be introducing a foreign sugar source”.

Zanella and his team have also progressively lowered dosage levels. “We only have two sparkling wines left at four grams/litre (g/L). All our other Franciacortas are under two g/L”.

Another innovation dear to Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta is the introduction of recently disgorged wines from their Cuvée Prestige, multi-vintage cuvée. Disgorged some ten years later, these limited edition wines are produced as a testament to the bottle ageing potential of the Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige.

Tasting Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige Wines

What does VW, PW, LW mean in my Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Tasting Notes ? Check out my wine scoring system.

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige, 43 Edizione – 92pts. PW

The Cuvée Prestige is a multi-vintage bottling (referred to as non vintage in other regions), made with roughly 20% reserve wine. This is the 43rd edition of the estate’s flagship wine. It is a classic blend of three-quarters Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in supporting roles. The wine is aged for 25 months on lees, and is dosed to just 2 g/L.

Inviting aromas of lemon, shortbread biscuits, hazelnut, and yellow orchard fruit feature on the nose. The palate is fresh and medium in weight, with a rounded structure and fine, supple bubbles. Subtle apricot notes join the aromatic chorus on the palate, giving way to a dry, smooth finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($44.75), LCBO ($44.95)

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige, 33 Edizione – 93pts. PW

Produced ten years ago, a small batch of the 33 Edizione Cuvée Prestige was held back and only disgorged in late 2020. Blend components and dosage levels were similar to the 43 edition cuvée.

Intense aromas of buttered toast, dried lemon peel, and roasted hazelnut leap from the glass. The palate is lively and fresh, with ultra-fine bubbles, and a broad, creamy mid-palate. Deep nutty, savoury flavours linger on the long, dry finish.

Where to Buy: Enquire with agent, Montalvin (Québec) or Galleon Wines (Ontario)

Comparative Notes: 43 Edizione vs. Recently Disgorged 33 Edizione

Both wines are well-crafted examples of how good traditional method sparkling wines from Franciacorta can be. The more youthful 43rd edition will appeal more to those that like a fresh, fruit-focused, lively style of sparkling wine. Whereas, the 33rd edition is deeper and more savoury, with quite subtle mousse, and a seemingly drier finish.

As an aperitif wine, the 43rd edition would be my pick. The dry, savoury, quite vinous nature of the 33rd calls out for a similarly hearty food pairing. Dishes featuring earthy root vegetables of mushrooms should work well.

Education Reviews Wines

Six Soulful, Sustainable Alsace Wines to Seek Out

Alsace Wines

Photo: Céline & Isabelle Meyer of Domaine Josmeyer, credit to www.vivant.eco

Alsace wines have always stood out among French AOC regions, in both a literal and figurative sense. The Vosges Mountains act as a physical barrier separating the region’s vineyards from surrounding areas. Furthermore, Alsace maintains strong Germanic influences. This is evident in many of the region’s tongue-twisting place names.

The style of Alsace wines is distinctive. Driven by grape variety long before other French regions adopted the policy, Alsace was long characterized by its broad, aromatic, off-dry to sweet white wines. While these traits still hold true for many wineries, a move to drier, more terroir-focused wines has gained global attention over the past few decades.

The region has also drawn praise for its early and widescale adoption of sustainable viticultural practices. Alsace is a leading European wine region when it comes to organic and biodynamic viticulture. In fact, it was here that the first biodynamic winery in France gained Demeter accreditation, back in 1980.

Terroir Diversity in Alsace Wines

Alsace enjoys a warm, semi-continental climate. The Vosges Mountains block wet weather, making the region one of the sunniest and driest vineyard areas of France.

While grape variety is an important part of Alsace’s regional identity, the expression of each grape differs greatly from one site to another. The vineyards of Alsace line the lower slopes of the Vosges Mountaines at 200 to 400 metres above sea level.

The geology of the region is incredibly diverse, with rock formations spanning the primary to quaternary era. Soil composition also varies widely. According to local experts, areas just 100 metres apart often reveal significant differences in soil makeup. Granite, chalk, marlstone, sandstone, loam, alluvial and even volcanic soils are found here.

Alsace Wines Updated AOC Hierarchy

Until recently, Alsace wines had a simple AOC hierarchy, similar to that of Chablis. It consisted of three appellations: Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace, and Alsace Grand Cru. Within the Grand Cru level, certain individual sites could append their name to labels. However, in 2011 these 51 vineyard lieux-dits (plots) were granted individual AOC status.

Changes were also made to the region-wide Alsace AOC. Since 2011, wines meeting reglemented quality, origin, varietal, and style criteria can also label themselves with 14 defined commune names, or a list of specific lieu-dits. In the latter case, production rules are far stricter. These include limits on pruning crop loads, yield levels, obligatory hand harvesting for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and higher minimum sugar levels at harvest.

Alsace Wines: Tradition, Family, and Innovation

I recently received a trio of Alsace wines, whose common theme (according to Vins d’Alsace) is “un vignoble à taille humaine”. The idea was to highlight the region’s long production history and predominance of family-run establishments passed down through the generations.

The end goal was to show dualism that exists in Alsace wines. Traditional family values sit alongside a dynamic, forward-thinking mindset where sustainability is a primary viticultural concern, and efforts to highlight prime terroirs are ever present.

The Alsace wines tasted, plus a few more received from various local agents, were all well-made, expressive examples of the Alsace AOC category. They are a testament to the value on offer in Alsace and serve as an accessible starting point, whetting the appetite for the best of the region’s Grand Cru lieux-dits.

Domaine Loew Sylvaner “Verité” Alsace 2019 – 92pts. PW

This biodynamic estate holds an impressive double certification, from both Demeter and Biodyvin. Etienne Loew and his team focus on site specific, small batches of wine produced with natural yeasts, following a low intervention approach.

The Sylvaner grape is notorious for its insipid wines, notably when overcropped. Not so here! Incisive aromas of lemon zest and citronella flood the senses, underscored by hints of flint and white pepper. Initially light on the palate, with laser-like acidity. The mid-palate broadens to reveal a concentrated, off-dry core of lemon, orchard fruit, and wet stone, carried to the finish on a smooth, textural base. Great balance between subtle fruity sweetness and zippy freshness.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($26.95)

Domaine Barmès-Buecher “Trilogie” Alsace 2019 – 88pts. PW

Geneviève Barmès (née Buecher) and husband François Barmès united their families’ historic vineyard holdings to establish Domaine Barmès-Buecher. The estate is located in Wettolsheim, a stone’s throw from Colmar. Certified biodynamic since 2001, the domaine has holdings in a handful of prime Grand Cru sites, where old vines reign.

The “Trilogie” cuvée is a blend of predominantly Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Gewürztraminer. Highly aromatic, with aromas of lychee, pineapple, and honeysuckle on the nose. The palate is fresh, ample, and rounded with hints of yellow apple on the dry finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($21.85)

Trimbach Riesling Alsace 2017 – 89pts. PW

The Trimbach family has been a driving force in Alsatian wine since 1626. The estate spans 50 vineyard parcels in six villages, including Bergheim, Ribeauvillé and Hunawihr. Chemical pesticides and herbicides were banned at the domaine back in 1972. Trimbach was also one of the first in the region to adopt integrated pest management schemes.

Classic notes of kerosene come to the fore on this 2017 Riesling. With aeration, the nose reveals undertones of white blossoms, apple, and musky nuances. Steely in acidity and structure, with a linear palate profile, and dry, zesty finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($23.90)

Josmeyer Alsace Riesling “Le Kottabe” 2018 – 94pts. PW

Céline and Isabelle Meyer are the fifth generation at the helm of this highly regarded 24-hectare estate. Josmeyer’s production has been certified organic and biodynamic since 2004. Proprietors of several excellent regional lieux-dits and Grand Cru sites, the Meyer’s vinify their wines with wild yeasts and age them in centuries-old oak casks.

Year after year, the “Le Kottabe” Riesling is always compelling. Initially discreet, the nose opens to reveal a heady aromatic array of flint, raw honey, apricot, and quince, underscored by hints of petrol and undergrowth. The palate has a wonderful sense of focused energy, with its crisp acidity, vibrant fruity flavours, light body, and refreshing bitterness. Finishes dry, with lingering tangy fruit.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($33.00)

Vignoble du Reveur “Vibrations” Alsace 2019 – 91pts. PW

Le Vignoble du Reveur is the passion project of Mathieu Deiss, great grandson of Marcel Deiss. This small seven-hectare estate located in Bennwihr, Alsace is famed biodynamically. Wines are made with mininal intervention (natural yeast and a drop of sulphur at bottling).

The “Vibrations” cuvée is a dry (5g/L RS) Riesling, aged for one year on its fine lees. Electric notes of lime zest, lemongrass, and wet stone grace the nose. Initially racy and taut, the palate quickly develops more generous proportions. The lively core of ripe lemon, peach, and hints of mango tapers to a pleasantly rounded, juicy finish.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($24.35)

Marcel Deiss Pinot Noir Alsace 2018 – 89pts. PW

Regularly hailed among the top estates of Alsace, Domaine Marcel Deiss is a 32-hectare biodynamic estate situated in Bergheim. Passionate about protecting the rich biodiversity of his vineyards, Jean-Michel Deiss is an ardent proponent of co-plantation. This traditional method of Alsatian viticulture consists of planting multiple grape varieties on single vineyard sites, a practice currently not authorized in Grand Cru plots.

Marcel Deiss’ Alsace Pinot Noir is a testament to the hot 2018 vintage. Fragrant aromas of macerated red cherry dominate the nose, underscored by incense, nutmeg, and dried rose petals. The medium weight palate is broad in structure, with velvety tannins, and a dry, faintly warming finish. Best served chilled to 16c.

Where to Buy: SAQ ($33.50)

*** This Alsace wines article is modified from a piece originally written for SOMM360  Want to learn more about wine & spirits? Check out their excellent learning platform for articles, audio capsules, and loads of fun quizzes to test your knowledge. ***

Reviews Wines

Tasting Viñedo Chadwick 2018 Vintage

Viñedo Chadwick 2018

Last week, I spent some time tasting the Viñedo Chadwick 2018 vintage release.

I opened it in the morning and poured out a good measure. Then I let it breathe and came back to the glass several times during the day to see how it evolved.

Wine tasting is often a rapid fire experience for professionals. Pre-covid, the majority of my tastings took place at events, trade fairs, wineries, or scholarly settings. The nature of these environments precludes a leisurely pace. Wines are evaluated in a one to two-minute time span before moving on to the next bottle.

Nowadays, we taste in the silo of our separate spaces. I miss the buzz of a busy wine show and the intimate pleasure of tasting in the company of the winemaker, but there are undeniable advantages to solo tasting. Conditions like temperature, glassware, outside noise, and tasting tempo can all be controlled.

Of course, not every wine merits a day’s worth of analysis, nor do I have the time to regularly indulge in such repeat tastings. However, when a wine like Viñedo Chadwick 2018 crosses my desk, with its lofty reputation and luxury price tag, I like to take a beat.

The Story of Viñedo Chadwick

Viñedo Chadwick is the crowning jewel of the Chadwick-Errázuriz family wine range. The 2014 vintage was the first Chilean wine to receive a 100-point score from a globally respected wine writer. This achievement was vaunted by the critic in question, James Suckling, as a qualitiative “coming of age” for Chile.

The Viñedo Chadwick 2018 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, produced in the Puente Alto DO of Chile’s Maipo Valley. The vines are perched at 650 metres above sea level on an alluvial terrace of the Maipo River, over a stony, well draining bedrock. Moderate day time temperatures and cool evenings allow for slow, even ripening and excellent acid retention.

In a conversation with The Drinks Business, Magui Chadwick, 6th generation Chadwick descendant, described the Viñedo Chadwick 2018 as “our best ever”, describing the growing season conditions as “perfect”.

Receiving the storied bottle got me to thinking about wine scores and the notion of worth in wine. I am regularly asked whether expensive wines merit their high prices. So much so that the topic prompted me to write this article back in 2017.

A Three-Part Viñedo Chadwick 2018 Tasting

Evaluating price is difficult when it comes to luxury goods. Worth is an entirely personal valuation that I won’t venture to make for others. I am, however, far more critical in my tastings of ultra premium wines. One criteria I particularly focus on in top wines, especially younger vintages, is how they evolve in the glass.

This is what prompted my three-part tasting of the Viñedo Chadwick 2018.

Viñedo Chadwick 2018, Maipo Valley, Chile – 96pts. LW

1.5 hours after pouring… Attractive wild blueberries, black plum, and cassis aromas on the nose, underscored by eucalyptus, tobacco leaf, and floral nuances. The palate is full-bodied yet remarkably graceful, with refreshing acidity and a finely chiseled structure. Tannins are suave, with hints of cedar and spice seamlessly integrated. Rises to a glorious crescendo of tangy dark fruit, dark chocolate, and cooling minty nuances that linger on and on.

3 hours later… the nose has gained in intensity, with increased florality and the emergence of pretty red cherry notes. The palate remains polished with lovely freshness.

6 hours later…the mid-palate seems far more expansive (both broader and deeper), while the finish continues to impress with its vibrancy and complex succession of vibrant fruit, tobacco, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, and subtle cedar flavours.

Already drinking beautifully, this remarkable wine should continue to evolve nicely for 20 years +

Where to Buy: Coming soon to the SAQ ($449.75), code: 14703567

What does LW mean in my scoring of Viñedo Chadwick 2018? Check out my wine scoring system.